You nosy mother shutyourmouths. That post about Darrin was the second most read post to this blog to date.
He is pretty awesome, though. I don’t actually blame you.
And, clearly, by “later today” in my last post, I meant a day and a half later. My time management skills are probably at a legendary status right now.
Anyway. Updating for really-reals now, so get your coffee, a blanket, someone’s cat, and your choice of personal feels.
The transition back to work in December was difficult, but mitigated by a very sincere work staff. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for the people I work with and the company as a whole. I have never been treated with so much respect and kindness in a working environment in my life, and I can say with honesty that they were outstanding through the process of my leave and return. The truth of the matter was that my stress levels prior to taking time away were impacting my performance and interaction more than I had realized, and had I not had the people around me to guide me through some healing time, I might have seen myself tank irreconcilably.
I distinctly remember dropping the kids off at school on my first morning back to work, then immediately crying. It was so hard to know that my pipe dream had come to an end, and I resented it. My heart was racing, and despite the anti-anxiety meds, I felt panic. I can’t do this. You have to do this. I wanna go home. You can’t go home. This isn’t fair. That’s not how life works. I need more time. Quit stalling.
As I pulled up to the building, I sat in my car, breathing deeply. It wasn’t the building I was afraid of. Wasn’t the people inside or the people on the phone. It was the fear that the consistency and peace that I had had over the last month at home was going to erode away again, and I’d find myself right back where I was- looking my boss in the face as she told me that I was going to take some time for myself, away from the business. It’s not like me to shirk a challenge. I generally work so well under pressure, in fact becoming more efficient, more focused, and more successful when the chips are down. I know how to manage my emotions and accomplish tasks in adverse environments.
I’m a damn professional, and hard shit is part of my M.O.
Yet all I could think about was my children. My home. Our home.
However, I got myself together and badged into the building. The number of people who had noticed my absence and were genuinely happy to see me surprised me. I had spent the last couple of months quietly moving around the building with much less to say than is normal for me. But there were hugs and smiles and compliments as to how much healthier I looked, and my boss gave me several days to ease myself back into the swing of things. Within a week or so, I was back to the usual, and since that time, my performance has been exponentially better. On paper (and in person), I am who my coworkers had been used to seeing.
A smiling, joking, easy going machine, handling my business and back in the company gym making people suffer.
As things go back to progressing at work, I am continually affirmed and consulted. My job is rough, given what it is. But it’s an act of God, a mercy, and a testimony to the inherent goodness in people that the agents and supervisory staff in that building are phenomenal. Much of the mild changes I made while at home to correct my work-life balance have stuck, and so transitioning back and forth is making it less painful to be away. I will always have a special place in my heart for single mothers and working mothers, given my experience, though, and I pray fervently that blessings and aid come to those moms who, like me, find themselves balled up on the bathroom floor, looking for miracles.
While the plan had been to resolve the ongoing court issue with the father of my children during my time away, the case was continued and reset for a December date. It was a hard thing to stomach- I hate living under unfinished business. Shit, I was the kid who had projects and papers completed a week ahead of time because I would literally lose sleep over knowing there was a due date approaching for work I had not completed. The whole situation was distasteful, and as the hearing loomed, I was fearful.All I wanted was consistency for my children. They had been through so much, and having shouldered the brunt of all those hard life transitions and emotional evolutions, I felt like I knew better than any breathing human what needed to happen in order to create for them a safety bubble.
Story of my life: God reminds me that neither I nor any other living human is actually wise enough to make that call.
It began to shape up that I had two plausible paths. I could either risk overreaching and try to strip the ability of anyone else to make any decisions or bear any influences over my children, or I could risk handing over more of the reins (to either correct the disconnects that were occurring and impacting the children’s mental health or allow other parties to hang themselves with it). Naturally, as any mother would, my heart and my pride said, Fuck everyone. These are my children. MINE. And I will keep them safe. And I will so destroy anything and anyone who poses any threat to them. This mindset, encouraged by well-meaning and concerned support members around me, had initially shaped my approach.
The morning of the hearing was an absolute nightmare. My beloved cat, Sargent “Sarge” Wallace, died suddenly, head in my hands, at 6:30am.
My sister-in-law, a Colombian, told me that, in her culture. it is said that cats will take on the evil meant to befall their humans. If that’s true, I know that’s what Sarge did. Throughout all of the very difficult moments of the last four years, this cat has understood exactly what’s going on with me. I feel stupid attributing that kind of wisdom to an animal, because I’m not one of those pet owners who gets sappy about their pets. But this wise-ass cat was my bro, my comfort, my ride-or-die best buddy. I fed him bacon in the morning, and he harassed me into going to bed on time. He looked after the kids, trolled people for my amusement, and never hated me (for long) when I shaved him into a lion.
Ironically, Sarge originally belonged to the father of my children, as I had a cat of my own when we adopted him. When my household split, Sarge stayed with me, and I think he knew it was where he belonged. Between that cat and my son, I was a looked-after woman. And on the day I anticipated severing the last remaining optional ties with his original owner, Sarge took one last hook to the chin for me. I’m not sure what it would have been, but I have no doubt my fluffy, bear-butt-looking kitteh spared me.
The world is less for the loss of my cat.
Before I complete the court saga, I will say there was a spiritual incident prior to the court date that makes me wonder about the beginning of Sarge’s demise.
***Warning. I am very, very Catholic. Like, in my bones, in my soul, shapes my outlook Catholic. And we believe in spiritual warfare, guardian angels, and miraculous healing. If that’s not your cup of tea, tough shit, because I’m about to write several paragraphs about it. You can choose to scroll past it and pick up where the regular life stuff continues. You can also read some religious writings and educate yourself just to gain a new world view for purely intellectual reasons…and also not to be an ass about things you haven’t considered. All optional.
A week or so before the court hearing, I was asleep in my bed when I heard the sound of footsteps on the carpet. Now, my bedroom door was shut, and my children have not figured out how to turn the knob with the childlock on the outside of the door. There were no shadows, no sounds, no, “Mommy?” Just quiet padding across the carpet at the foot of my bed.
Normally, like any red-blooded American in the South, I would have reached for the weapon in my nightstand, strobed the idiot who stumbled into the wrong house with the wrong girl, and handled my business. I like weapons. I like safety. I have this under control. But. In my soul, I knew that this was not a person. A weapon wouldn’t do me any good.
So I quietly prayed, Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Over and over for what seemed like quite some time. When I stopped, something seized me and caused all my muscles to tense. It didn’t hurt- no pain. But I could feel my back arch and a groan escape my mouth. Then…nothing. Deafening silence. As I lay there, trying to understand what had happened, I prayed, God, protect all the people in this house. Protect those I love. Keep them safe. For a few moments, I prayed and waited. At peace, I padded out into the hall to check my children and the state of the house.
All babies sleeping peacefully. All doors and windows locked. All things as they should be.
Except my cat was sitting outside the front door.
In the morning, I got the children up for school and started breakfast, then went to dress myself.
And peed blood.
I had no pain. No fever. No dehydration. In my mind, I ran over all plausible causes for blood in urine. No signs of a UTI. No trauma. Hell, I couldn’t even play dumb about being female because I had a hysterectomy after Maddie.
Nah, bro. This was straight up blood. And a lot of it.
I called my doctor, but was waitlisted for the day. I called my younger sister- a nurse at Yale- who was just as puzzled. After running other pre-planned errands for the day, I went to the church to find a priest and pray until I heard back from my doctor. Of course the priest was out of his office.
Why is no one else freaking out that I’m peeing blood?!
As usual, when weird things are happening or I am troubled, I found myself in the front pew of St. Mary’s with my rosary. I asked God for healing, to help me understand the events of my life. I begged Him for strength, not to abandon me. I prayed that any malicious entity in my home would leave, as it was not welcome there. Can You hear me? I know You hear me. You’ve never let me down. I just don’t know any more. Be with me, please.
When I felt in my heart that He had heard me, I left the sanctuary, blessing myself with Holy Water on the way out, per the norm. Still no word from the doc, I decided to head home. There were several doc-in-the-boxes out my way, so I figured I’d get the house squared away before popping into one of those, then pick up my kids. Just to see if I was still afflicted, I stopped off in the restroom.
I laughed to myself, right there on the porcelain throne. That, my friends, is a miracle. And while I had made plans (later executed with my sister) to bless my home in the event there was still something lurking about, I knew what God had done.Him, and my legion of guardian angels. Man, it’s good to have friends in high places.
A doctor later confirmed that I had an infection in my kidney. It was unclear where it had come from, as there was no UTI or any other standard method of infection. It was also unusual that I had no pain and that the bleeding had suddenly stopped. For good measure, he prescribed a course of antibiotics, shrugged, and told me to come back if the symptoms returned. They never did, of course, and never would have even if I hadn’t taken the meds.
I can’t help but wonder if that “bad juju” somehow afflicted my cat, who not long after died because of an issue in his urinary tract.
Anyway. In the midst of tears, trying to explain to three small children what had just happened, dressing for court, handing off the lifeless body of my best cat love to some extraordinarily compassionate vets, and falling into the car ten minutes behind schedule, I was beginning to resent this life purge I was undergoing. Although in the best company of my sister with tasty Starbucks breakfast all the way to the courthouse, I felt cosmically picked upon. This was just so much on one heart.
And then there was that bit where Darrin had just had both knees replaced the week before, and I had been sleeping in hospital chairs for days because things were going a little sideways with his recovery.
Fatigue makes everything better, right?
As I walked in, my attorney advised me that this judge was retiring and was unlikely to be interested in actually hearing anything. “He wants to rubber stamp things,” David told me. Which means that if it came right down to it, this guy wasn’t going to care one way or another about my arguments. He was going to take court trends, numbers, and state standards to just rubric my life into a box. Huddled together, we discussed the likelihood of my counterclaim, determining what really was necessary for the best care of the children.
Eventually, we were sent out to see if we could come to a settlement. Being so far down on the docket, it was unlikely that we would actually go before the judge that day anyway. Back and forth between attorneys and paralegals and numbers, enough progress was made toward a settlement that the judge just reassigned the court hearing for February in the event that nothing could be finalized.
I left feeling empty. There was no anger or fear. There was no victory or comfort. I was totally numb. The rain started to fall on the drive home (true to form, while processing with my sister, I missed an exit and drove us about thirty minutes in the wrong direction), and I was just…done. I didn’t want anything or anyone anymore. Let’s just get this stupid settlement on paper and get away from all this ugliness. No more.
Despite some bumps and disagreements along the way, a settlement was reached and signed into being last week. I feel much better about the way things will be handled, and ultimately, it wasn’t at all like I thought- and was encouraged to think- it should be. I had bound myself up so tightly and rigidly in my position that I had become inflexible. Life is dynamic, and people are messy. When we come at life at hard angles and rigid stacks, things crumble over time like the Greek Parthenon. But if we bend, if we intelligently distribute the weight and the struggles, life bears on beautifully like Roman arches.
Thus, three of my most recent life lessons.
- Good begets good, and evil begets evil. My job is to keep my soul clean and operate with what I am given to the best of my ability. In allowing myself to get angry, feel vengeful, court despair, etc., all I was doing was handicapping myself. I was bring my past forward, limiting the future and possibilities to a very small scope. This is where faith and hope are so vital. God is merciful, compassionate, and kind. He heard the outcry of my heart, and He knew what I really wanted, deep down. When I removed myself from all the ugliness that I felt surrounded by, I was able to see the good in the resolution that came about and manage it in a way that is befitting to who I really am as a person. The actions and behaviors of those around me are theirs to answer to, and God’s to address.
- Sometimes, the people who love you the most are the last people you need to listen to. I think it’s natural to return to base when things are spinning out. A hug does a lot of good, scientifically and spiritually, and hugs can come in a number of different ways. But when we are suffering, those who love us want to wrap us up in those hugs and shield us. Protect us. Heal us. The very best of those people don’t need names- just addresses. They will war for you. Yet in that ferocity of love, they, too, may miss the message, the lesson, wrapped up in all that difficulty you’re experiencing that’s meant to grow you. This is not to say that you should not seek comfort and solace, and that they occasional roast fest isn’t necessary. Suuuper is. What I’m getting at is that your final decisions have to sit at peace with your soul, as you will be the one to ultimately execute and answer for them. Turn off the noise and make up your mind.
- Be humble, but firm. I have a long-standing history of struggling to advocate for myself. I’m a people pleaser. And while I do earnestly delight in make others feel comfortable and peaceful and loved, it comes at a cost sometimes. In the end, you alone inhabit your body. Your heart and your mind speak to you and to God. Not a single other person on this earth can manage those for you, nor can they answer for all of your soul. It’s important to be humble when you’re wrong, weak, or need help. Equally so, you must be firm in the decisions you make and speak for yourself.
And so, here we are. A week out from my next birthday. A rough sketch of plans for a better year. Another evolution complete. To reward you for your efforts (and because I’m too tired now to talk about anything else), here’s a brief photo summary of a few other things that have happened. Until next time, my friends.
Which hopefully won’t be three months out, but Jesus take the wheel.